Because I’m a Wrexham AFC fan, despite being English, Wales are very much my second team, and I always will them on. The success of Wales at Euro 2016 struck a chord with me. One thing that is crystal clear is that this wasn’t an accident, or an overnight success – it was planned for years, and in incredible detail.
Part of me thought ‘I bet businesses could learn loads from how Wales went about things’, but then I realised that hundreds of articles and blog posts will have tried to do that. Instead, I thought about what would have happened if the Welsh football team had been a business, owned by a VC…
Out with the old, in with the new
For a start, the 10-year vision of the Welsh FA would have been unlikely to have survived VC ownership. The Welsh success has been a plan 10+ years in the making. Gareth Bale was bedded into the Welsh under 21 team at the age of 16 by former Wrexham manager Brian Flynn. Even for an under 21 team, the group was young. Players with potential were bedded with one eye on the future, and it’s no coincidence that two of the other players in that youthful U21 team that day, Dave Edwards and Christ Gunter, also featured in Euro 2016.
It’s rare for a VC to take a 10-year view, but what can you change, realistically, in 3 years? That Welsh U21 team expected to lose, and in fact they lost a record number of matches consecutively. But the players gained an invaluable amount of experience along the way, which made their transition to the senior squad seamless. Chris Coleman, the Welsh manager at Euro 2016, lost his first 4 games in charge. Would the CEO of a VC owned business survive 4 consecutive quarters of loss?
The management team had faith in the long term vision. They understood the changes that Coleman was implementing, and so did the players. They never lost faith, and got their rewards. Would the VC owned Wales have?
The whole of greater than the sum of its parts
Much of credit for Wales’s success has been given to the incredible back room team that supports Chris Coleman and his squad. Aaron Ramsey, the Arsenal midfielder, rates them as the best backroom team in the world. Following David Brailsford’s 1% improvement approach, they analyse, monitor and prepare each and every player for each and every training session, let alone match.
But would our VC see the importance in a psychologist, analyst, extra physio? Too often those apparently superfluous members of staff or departments are made redundant in order to move money from the bottom line. How often have you heard of ex-employees being hired back as freelancers? Understanding everything that drives an organisation, not a single minded focus on the numbers, is the thing that the VC Wales might have lost.
We’re all brand builders
#TogetherStronger was a mechanic that any Welsh man, woman or child could join in with, and show their support for the national team. But its success and relevance is much stronger than that. The Welsh marketing team realised that brands are built from the inside out, and the hashtag would simply be a slogan if everyone within the Welsh FA – from the Exec to the team on the pitch – didn’t get involved.
When Gareth Bale began tweeting #TogetherStronger, its success really took off. A bond was created between players and fans in what had been, up until then, primarily a rugby loving country.
Our VC Wales may not have created communications with, genuinely, One Voice. More likely, the Welsh team and staff would have been an afterthought in their considerations, and they would have focused on advertising which would reach consumers more quickly, but would never build the same sort of rapport as the inside-out approach of Wales achieved.
Don’t get me wrong, we partner with many VC owned organisations who do fabulous work, and some of the best do take a long term viewpoint on the development of their brands, but on the whole, short term returns tend to outweigh long term vision.
So, in summary, if the Welsh had been owned by a Venture Capitalist, how would they have performed in Euro 2016? Easy – like England.